How to Clean a Brass Instrument
Owning a brass instrument can be a labor of love, as frequent care and proper maintenance is important to maintaining the best possible sound quality, and avoiding expensive replacement of parts due to corrosion. This applies to all brass instruments including trumpets, trombones, saxophones, French horns and tubas.
Brass is made from a combination of copper and zinc, which can tarnish and corrode over time due to exposure to oxygen and moisture. Oil and dirt from your hands can also damage the instrument's finish, so you should always wash your hands before handling the instrument.
Brass instruments should be thoroughly cleaned once a month to prevent corrosion (if your lead pipe begins to smell, it's time for a cleaning). You should clean your mouthpiece with a mouthpiece brush at least once a week, and oil the lead pipe to avoid the mouthpiece getting stuck. Before cleaning, determine whether the item is solid brass or brass-plated by using a magnet, which will not stick to solid brass. Be careful not to rub or polish brass-plated instruments aggressively, to prevent diminishing the plating.
Your choice of cleaning products is important, as household cleaners may contain chemicals which can oxidize metals, including brass. Simple Green Pro HD RTU is a ready-to-use heavy-duty cleaner that easily eliminates grime, stains and debris such as food particles without corroding metal. The professional-grade, biodegradable formula is solvent-free and clean-rinsing, so it won't leave behind any chemical residue as it deep cleans your brass instrument.
- Disassemble Brass Instrument. Remove all valves to the instrument, pull all slides and remove valve cap bottoms. Label each slide with paper if necessary, to avoid pitch confusion in reassembly. Set aside all valve felt or fabric to avoid getting it wet, which can lead to mold and mildew growth.
- Apply Simple Green Pro HD RTU. Spray Simple Green Pro HD Ready-To-Use Heavy-Duty Cleaner onto the surface of the instrument, and into any open spaces.
- Scrub. Use a valve brush or snake brush to thoroughly scrub the brass inside and out, paying close attention to valve openings and crevices.
- Rinse. Rinse the item with clean water.
- Dry. Buff dry with a microfiber cloth.
- Polish. Simple Green Pro HD RTU safely cleans brass but does not polish it, so follow up by applying a small amount of slide grease or petroleum jelly to the slides. Add oil to the piston valves as well. Shine using a polishing cloth.
- Reassemble. Replace felt on valves. Reassemble the valves in order.
Tip: Do not soak brass items in Simple Green Pro HD. Long soak times in any alkaline, water-based cleaner can cause dingy, grey discoloration.
Tip: If using Simple Green Pro HD concentrate, dilute it with water from 1:3 to 1:10, depending on the severity of soil.